Guide to buying a garden shed

Whether you are looking for extra storage or a little refuge, a garden shed makes a handy addition to your outdoor space. But before you rush out and buy one it is worth considering what you will be using it for, which style, size and material will suit your needs best.

Garden shed
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There are two basic styles available - apex and pent sheds. Those with an apex, where the roof slopes on both sides, are probably the most popular as the shorter support timbers make the shed robust enough to withstand the British weather.

A pent roof, which slopes away in one direction, may suit if you are placing your shed close to a wall or fence as it allows rainwater to run off in one direction. With the eaves higher at the back, this type of shed allows for extra headroom at the front so is suited to those who plan on installing a workbench.

Alternatively, the pent solar shed combines the single-sloped roof with a wide sloping glazed front and doubles as a greenhouse whilst providing extra light.

If you are not concerned with having timber, extending plastic sheds are available with a shallow apex roof - by adding an extension kit, you can expand the storage space available as and when you need it.

Wood is the most traditional, and most attractive material for a shed as it blends into your garden naturally. Choose between an overlap or shiplap finish - overlap, as the name suggests, is where each slat overlaps the next, while shiplap means that each panel is connected with a tongue and groove join and nailed in place. The shiplap option often proves more damp resistant.

It is worth bearing in mind too, that a timber shed will require some maintenance such as wood treatment to ensure that it is kept in tip-top condition.

If looks don't worry you, then metal provides a maintenance-free alternative. Though they won't usually win any style awards, these galvanised steel sheds have the advantage of being fire resistant, won't rot and offer better security.

Should you require a smaller storage area, a plastic unit could be the answer. Versatile, waterproof and hardwearing, they usually come with a steel structure for better stability and an integral floor. Since it is so light, a plastic shed can be moved easily.

Ideally, you should choose the biggest size of shed you can reasonably accommodate and afford so that you aren't left wishing you had more room. Before buying, ensure that you have taken accurate measurements (and double checked them), taking into account potential problems such as roof overhang.

If possible, a shed in which you can stand up comfortably is best but more importantly, if you plan on storing bulky items, be sure that the doors are wide enough - there is nothing worse than assembling your shed only to find that the lawnmower or wheelbarrow doesn't fit. Sheds with double doors are available if necessary.

Once you have chosen your ideal shed it is vital to make sure it is positioned properly. For those who require mains electricity, a site close to the house is ideal but you will need plenty of space around the door for access and the window to allow plenty of natural light. However, it may be necessary to bevel the edges of the foundation so that rainwater drains away from the walls of the building.

A spot with a little shade is advisable (just in case the summer turns out to be a scorcher) while overhanging trees may cause problems as falling leaves can cause damp or block gutters.

Unless you are erecting your shed on a patio, you will need to create a level foundation, either with paving slabs or with a concrete foundation.